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Design for Business by DODO: What Companies Can Learn from Vlisco’s Approach to Fighting Competition



When I heard of the innovative solutions the Vlisco team created, I was very intrigued. They brought in design thinking…. all the way from the Netherlands down to Nigeria and other African countries to discover solutions to the problem they were encountering at the time.

Vlisco had been very successful over many decades selling to their African audience, however the fast growth of technology and entry of competitors from China started to slow down their business. Vlisco responded by hiring designers, with the goal to build an innovative team to figure out a solution to the problem of competitors in the market.

This team embarked on customer and industry research, travelling to Nigeria and other key West African countries to learn more about the people they were serving. They conducted multiple ethnographic research* activities with customers, shoppers, tailors, and fashion designers, going into homes and shops.

Their research revealed insights they would never have known otherwise. They discovered many of the barriers Vlisco was facing, one was that some customers restrained from purchasing expensive Vlisco fabrics, because they feared that their tailors would mess up their clothes. In addition, shoppers gravitated towards more affordable wax fabrics. Knowing this, Vlisco responded by creating Prêt-à-Couture, a service that allows shoppers pick their fabric, have their measurements taken in store and their clothes made under the umbrella of Vlisco. Knowing a recognizable brand was taking the responsibility for the sewing of their fabrics would give people more confidence in purchasing the quality fabrics.

Worth pointing out is the time, and resources the Vlisco brand took in finding out about their customers, At DODO, many clients we suggest this too are wary and reluctant, but there is no price to taking the time to discover the pain points one’s customers are experiencing. Truth is, if you don’t go, you won’t know. Alternatively if you do make the effort, the insights you find are priceless. These will expose a slew of opportunities to create solutions, be it services or products that resonate deeply with the customers. Here in lies many successful companies’ competitive advantages.

* Ethnographic research is the study of people and their behaviours.

Photo Credit: Dreamstime

Susan Onigbinde is founder of DODO Design Agency, an agency that helps businesses stand out from the competition through design, branding, communication, and their customer experience. Learn more about us on Let's connect on  Facebook- dodonigeria, Twitter- @dodo_nigeria, Instagram- @dodo_nigeria


  1. BN @Work

    April 2, 2018 at 2:04 pm

    Very true, one key way to having a successful behavioral change in consumers of any product is to always conduct a situation analysis of what the underlying reasons for the problem are. Part of the situation analysis involves formative research which give insights into the interests, characteristics, practices , knowledge etc of the target consumers.
    Afterwards a strategic design can then be formulated to effectively tackle the problem

  2. jcsgrl

    April 2, 2018 at 2:55 pm

    I love the part of “If you don’t go, you will not find out.” If you don’t ask, you will not know.

  3. Mediagirl

    April 2, 2018 at 3:04 pm

    Very interesting and insightful piece, much food for thought and action.

  4. Tolani olabisi

    April 3, 2018 at 2:10 pm

    So true. One has to always plan ahead for business growth by listening to the direct consumers (clients) they tell you where it hurts the most and once you can nip that in the bud, convince them about your brand’s stability and offer utmost quality service, they gravitate to you.
    Vlisco is practically a household name. Our grand mothers and mothers still buy the brand because of the durability of the fabric.
    The likes of E.A.T ( Ejiro Amos Tafiri) do justice to tailoring for us the trendy generation making vlisco still a household brand.

  5. Diuto

    April 3, 2018 at 7:44 pm

    It’s quite pricey period

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